E-Cigarettes: How much do you really know?

Deirdre Dupuis
Friday, July 23, 2021

In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert was the first person to file a patent for E-cigarettes. His thoughts and ideas were to create a non-tobacco cigarette that does not burn, and in 1965 his patent was granted. Though this idea never garnered very much attention due to the cultural acceptance of smoking, he is given credit for his forward-thinking and ingenuity. Then in 2003, a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik began working on a modern concept that is in use today. With his father dying from lung cancer due to heavy smoking, Hon Lik intended to invent an alternative device that does not cause lung cancer and did not contain any of the chemicals that tobacco companies include in their products.

In 2004, E-cigarettes hit the Chinese markets, and by 2007 the European and U.S. markets had the devices for sale. In 2015, Juul Labs Inc. became a recognized company in establishing itself as the most popular and leading E-cigarette company to date. Their design made it much more convenient to refill the device, and each 0.7 ml Juul pod has the nicotine content equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.

Vaping, which is the act of consumption of vaporized aerosols from the E-cigarette device, is thought to simply be the inhalation of flavored water vapor. That is proven not so, and studies have shown that it is highly addictive, dangerous, and harmful to health and brain development. Diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease, is used as a flavoring in the pods, along with formaldehyde, a colorless, poisonous compound, and acrolein, a colorless or yellow liquid which is used as a pesticide. These toxic chemicals, coupled with the addictive attribute of nicotine, make the act of vaping, now more popular amongst teens than traditional smoking, a serious health crisis for the next generation.

In 2021, the state of North Carolina won a $40-million-dollar settlement against Juul labs Inc. for unlawfully marketing and selling its products to youth. The lawsuit from 2019, the first of its kind, contends that Juul Labs Inc. used sweet flavors and a sleek design to distribute highly addictive substances that are responsible for reversing a decline in teen tobacco use. There are also eight lawsuits against other E-cigarette manufacturers for marketing campaigns that target young people.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration is deciding on whether to allow Juul Labs Inc. to be able to sell their products in the U.S. The New York Times published an article on July 6 that Juul Labs Inc. paid $51,000 to have the entire May/June issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior to publish eleven stories to prove its products have a public health benefit.

Regardless of the big business and large profits of E-cigarettes, there are very serious health risks and dangers associated with vaping. There is no price tag for the health of the current and next generations, and if we are not vigilant, we will sacrifice much on the simple ability to breathe. The public must know the facts and dangers of vaping, and we must assist with spreading the truth over the myths and social acceptance of E-cigarette usage. If we do not, we may incur more health concerns and crises than we can handle.

(Deirdre Dupuis is the tobacco prevention specialist for the Dawson County Department of Health, which serves Prairie County. Reach her at 406-377-5213.)

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